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Published: 23:41, February 06, 2023 | Updated: 09:39, February 07, 2023
Bold moves vital to city's post-pandemic recovery
By Tu Haiming
Published:23:41, February 06, 2023 Updated:09:39, February 07, 2023 By Tu Haiming

The Shanghai authority organized a citywide conference on optimizing the business environment immediately after the Lunar New Year holiday, unveiling 10 initiatives and 32 policy measures aimed at creating a first-class business environment. Addressing the audience, Chen Jining, Party chief of Shanghai, emphasized that the city will deepen high-level reform and opening-up with an enterprising spirit, and will strive to make breakthroughs in socioeconomic development by surmounting challenges.

On the same day, the government of Guangdong province also held its “high-quality development” conference with around 25,000 people attending either in person or online, many of whom are from the business sector. Huang Kunming, Party chief of Guangdong, commented at the conference that Guangdong banking on the economic powerhouse of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will reinvent itself in an awe-inspiring miracle.

It is certainly not over the top to say that the new initiatives and measures unveiled by Shanghai and Guangdong following the end of a three-year pandemic come with significant revelations for Hong Kong.

Evidently, the daring attitude, vision and commitment demonstrated by Shanghai and Guangdong in promoting socioeconomic development overshadow Hong Kong’s efforts. Because of the legacy of the “positive noninterventionism” governance philosophy, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has traditionally been overcautious, and more reactive than proactive in many cases, in promoting socioeconomic development. While the new administration led by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has made some progress in this regard, Hong Kong, having been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, needs to take more bold and big moves to reverse its economic frailty.

Amid fierce competition in the global landscape, the Guangdong authority realizes that pursuing high-quality development is the way ahead. Thus, the province is focusing on vigorously enhancing its supply chain, industrial supporting capacity, talent pool, infrastructure, etc. Shanghai, on the other hand, is focusing on improving its business environment and global reputation as a business hub by way of further marketization, legalization and internationalization. It is safe to assume that both Shanghai and Guangdong will bring their socioeconomic development to a new level with the newly unveiled initiatives and policy measures.

Hong Kong, by contrast, has much to catch up on, in terms of planning and vision for long-term socioeconomic development. Like Guangdong and Shanghai, promoting high-quality development is also a theme relevant to Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong’s world-class business environment is unmatched by Shanghai and Guangdong, it does not have many of the strengths they boast. The HKSAR government needs to painstakingly find a pivot point for the city to promote high-quality development.

The 10 initiatives and 32 policy measures unveiled by Shanghai are “big moves” designed to bail out enterprises, enhance employment, boost consumption and support industry innovation. In Guangdong, authorities recently announced they will roll out 1,530 major projects this year with a total investment of about 8.4 trillion yuan ($1.25 trillion).

Shanghai’s 32 measures demonstrate its readiness to hand out real money to subsidize enterprises and consumers, whereas Guangdong’s major projects manifest its commitment to promoting high-quality development with massive investment. Both places are equipping themselves with ample “energy packs” that will power up their economies.

During the pandemic, Hong Kong also launched measures to bail out companies and stimulate consumption, which yielded some economic benefits. With COVID-19 ebbing away, economies worldwide are beginning to switch tactics, with Shanghai and Guangdong taking the lead on the Chinese mainland. How Hong Kong should respond to this positive change and come up with corresponding strategies behooves the HKSAR government and all quarters of society to deliberate on.

Hong Kong differs from the mainland in many respects and need not copy its policy measures indiscriminately. It can, however, take a leaf out of Guangdong’s and Shanghai’s book, which focuses on addressing their weaknesses and sharpening their competitive edges. Hong Kong should also turn its shortcomings into strengths while enhancing its edges.

For instance, Hong Kong’s science and technological innovation is devoid of support of a high-end manufacturing sector, hence its development has been hindered. In the short term, what Hong Kong can do is to enhance cooperation with Shenzhen to make up for its weak links. In the medium-to-long term, Hong Kong should join up with Shenzhen’s high-end manufacturing industry through the Northern Metropolis.

Hong Kong should also build up its world-renowned professional services. The resumption of economic development after the pandemic will hopefully boost demand for professional services such as finance, accounting and international arbitration in emerging economies. Hong Kong should take the initiative to tap these markets and expand its professional services with tailor-made solutions for aspiring clients. In meeting their demands, Hong Kong will gradually upgrade its professional sectors and further augment its competitive edge.

When Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, was expounding on the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, he mentioned that patriots should be good at and take responsibility for addressing various challenges and problems facing Hong Kong’s development. The said responsibility shall include promoting economic recovery in the post-pandemic era. Shanghai and Guangdong have already made their moves; Hong Kong cannot allow itself to be left behind.

The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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